The BJP’s first list of 45 candidates for Jammu and Kashmir leaves out six MLAs whom it had found guilty of voting for National Conference-Congress nominees in the 2011 Legislative Council polls. It also drops Ashok Khajuria from Jammu East after party workers voted against him during a recent internal opinion poll.
The state has 87 seats. The BJP won 11 seats in 2008. Three years later, seven of these MLAs voted for NC-Congress nominees in the Legislative Council polls.
The 2014 list includes 13 Muslims, including the only woman among the 45. Dr Hina Bhat, daughter of a former National Conference MLA, has been fielded from Amirakadal.
Party spokesman Sunil Sethi described the list as the outcome of a well-thought-out process by the leadership, one that also kept in view the opinion of workers at the grassroots, but a group of supporters of local BJP leader Yudvir Sethi demonstrated at the party office in Jammu, while rejected MLA Baldev Raj Sharma described his omission as “betrayal”.
Apart from the 2011 cross-voting, Baldev was also facing criticism for ignoring his Reasi constituency after his election in 2008. He has been replaced with Ajay Nanda, the youngest son of the late Madho Lal Nanda, a hugely popular BJP leader.
Bali Bhagat replaces Bharat Bhushan Bodi in Rapur Domana. Bhagat is a BJP general secretary and an aggressive leader with a following in Chenab valley. He was in the forefront of the demand for village defence committees against terrorists.
Jagdish Raj Sapolia has been replaced with Ch Lal Singh in Basohli. The latter, a two-time Congress MLA and a two-time MP from Udhampur, had joined the BJP a few months ago.
The other sitting MLAs dropped are Durga Dass (Hiranagar), Master Lal Chand (Bani) and Prof Gharu Ram Bhagat (R S Pura). They have been replaced with Kuldeep Kumar, Jeevan Lal and Dr Gagan Bhagat respectively. Jeevan Lal is a retired tehsildar and a social worker who recently joined the party; Bhagat resigned as a government doctor some years ago.
When they had been suspended, the MLAs had revolted against the then legislature party leader by rallying around Chaman Lal Gupta. The party later expelled Gupta but eventually revoked the others’ suspension.